Archives for Christmas: How to get rid of background exposition

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I’m nearly done with my Christmas shopping! Just have to figure out what to get for my parents. Hmmm…

Y’all can still vote for my team’s origami tree (benefitting my local Humane Society) through December 20!

This post is a repeat, since I’m obviously rather busy with other things. ^ It was originally published on October 15, 2011.

Background exposition. When your characters have enough history to fill another whole book, but you’re not ready to write that book yet (or ever).

It usually looks like this (notice the proliferation of past perfect tense):

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About Stephanie Orges

Stephanie is an award-winning copywriter, aspiring novelist, and barely passable ukulele player. Here, she offers writing prompts, tips, and moderate-to-deep philosophical discussions. You can also find her on and Pinterest.
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  1. I feel sorry for the three teams that are very-much not winning the tree contest. I did vote for your lovely tree, though… several times.
    I hope you are having a good holiday! Remember, stress is not allowed.

  2. I’ve been in love with Tolkien’s Dwarves for a long time, and I’m glad that Jackson is fleshing them out a bit. The diminishing of Gimli to a cliche was one of my biggest peeves with LotR. And yes… I must have that soundtrack!
    I felt that most of the changes to the LotR films were necessary (I have my issues with the films, but overall I think they are a good adaptation). I don’t know whether I am being harder on Jackson now or not, but some of the changes in this rankled with me more. The altering of the mythology behind what is going on was excessive and unnecessary, I think. Also, Bilbo’s arc has come too far too soon in my opinion… the last scenes irritated me more than a little. What should occur in Mirkwood has already happened. Where do they go from here? Grr….
    My greatest fear was that the bits added in would clash with the tone of The Hobbit. Instead, they seem less epic than they should because of the context of the film around them.
    But I think they got the tone pretty close, I enjoyed the film and I intend to watch it again. So, success!
    The plate-breaking-song was brilliant, and the Misty Mountains song gives me happy chills. XD

    • I don’t think you’re being harder on Jackson. A film adaptation of something as long as LOTR required some change. But the story of The Hobbit is much simpler and shouldn’t require much tweaking, if any. I totally agree on Bilbo’s arc – that obviously happened because they decided to make three movies instead of just one, and felt the audience needed some closure at the end of the first. It just ended up feeling forced. But I did love Bilbo’s line “I have a feeling the worst is behind us.”
      I definitely want to watch it again – need to, to fully understand how I feel about it. I’m afraid I like the Narnia movies progressively less as I watch them multiple times. Well, except the first one.

      • I get the feeling that, with this film, he either trusts the original story less, or trusts his audience less, or both. Maybe, because of the sheer success of LotR, there are too many cooks in the kitchen now. And yeah, I think I know WHY they chose to push Bilbo’s arc forward, but I disagree with the choice. πŸ˜›
        But man, I am enjoying those Dwarves, and the casting is brilliant. So many mixed feelings!

  3. Oh, you have me laughing out loud! I didn’t mind Thorin at alllll πŸ˜‰

    I put it in the same category as giving Arwen a larger part in LotR. It just had to happen. The hard fact is that they had to put attractive Dwarves into the film in order to connect with their audience. Ugliness matters a lot less when you are reading than when you are viewing a film. Considering that, I am fine with it, especially if they spend plenty of time giving the uglier Dwarves good characterization. And who knows? Though Fili and Kili are going a bit far, Tolkien doesn’t say a whole lot about Dwarven appearance.

    Now, the rumor of “sparks” between an elf and Kili disturbs me… a lot. >_<

  4. Also, here’s something I have been mulling over.

    (Spoiler Alert for people who haven’t read The Hobbit!)

    The three Dwarves they chose to make attractive are the three who die… Thorin, of course, has to die for the story to be… well… the story. I expect that they will also kill at least one of the brothers, but I wonder if, in order not to upset their non-Tolkien-maniac fans, they will let one “attractive” Dwarf live. They’ve put themselves between rock fans and hard-place fans. I am just sitting back to watch the show. At least half of what is so fun about this is the “controversies” that rage!

    • Well, death scenes may mean more screen time for their beautiful faces.
      The controversy rather upsets me, I’m afraid. It makes me second-guess my natural desire for every good book to be made into a movie. It makes me start to think that NO books should be made into movies. It makes me wonder (in my most narcissistic daydreams) whether or not I should take that million-dollar deal for the film rights to my breakout novel. But then I remember pretty darn accurate movies like LOTR and almost perfect ones like Holes and movies that were BETTER than the book, like The Princess Diaries (sequels excluded), and I begin to feel a bit better.

      • Oh, I fully expect gratuitously dramatic death-scenes for any who do die.
        People are funny about what happens when a story is translated from one medium to another… and rightly so, to some extent, but as with all translations, things can’t stay the same, and success or failure hinges as much on tone, with films, as with plot or characters. Jackson, wherever he may fall short (it’s not really fair to lay this all at his door, but he makes an easy target) is good with tone.
        I think that, if I ever am published and enough people like my work for there to be a film made of it, I would be unable to watch said film.

        • Oh, you’re right. We can’t blame it all on him. I am duly chastised. And I agree about tone. I think the changes that alter the tone are the ones that bother us most. So that should perhaps, be the makers’ rule of thumb. Does this change mirror the tone of the book?

          I don’t know that I could watch mine. I don’t know that I could NOT watch it. I’d want to be involved in the making (as Sachar was for Holes), but that’s quite rare, and I might end up dong more harm than good (what do I know about making movies?). But I suppose that’s a cross-that-bridge-when-we-come-to-it scenario.

  5. I was chastising me!
    I think it is an excellent rule of thumb. When I look at the book-films that do or don’t work for me, it always comes down to tone. I am holding my breath to see if my precious Mirkwood will feel right.

    True, true.

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